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1992 Honda Civic CX - Drag 8-Second History Lesson

How The Privateer Invented And Reinvented Import Drag Racing

Aaron Bonk
Mar 30, 2011
Photographer: Henry Z. De Kuyper

Kevin Kempf's '92 Civic CX
The condensed story of import drag racing thus far: Toyota, Mazda, and Datsun tuners began late-night street racing within the confines of Los Angeles county's industrial parks sometime during the '80s. Honda owners enlisted just after the turn of the decade. By the mid-'90s, sanctioned drag racing events emerged throughout California; privateer racers with little backing and little money trailblazed Hondas to historic 11-, 10, and 9-second passes; spectators crowded the stands. In 2002, General Motors-the first OEM to embrace and spread unwieldy dollars toward a sport compact race team of its own-entered the scene, rendering it nearly impossible for cost-conscious privateers to remain competitive. Import drag racing as far as the amateur racer was concerned was crushed as $15,000 budgets were no match against $150,000 budgets. Today, big-money OEMs have moved on and the privateers are back. The stands are beginning to fill up again. And the cars are faster than ever. The folks at SpeedFactory Racing own one of those cars.

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Not long after the chancy sponsors and top brass OEMs that rode on the coattails of import drag racing's initial success fled did Kevin Kempf, part owner of Pacific Northwest's SpeedFactory Racing, locate his Civic hatchback. The odometer read a lofty 320,000 miles. Didn't matter, though; the body and chassis were straight and, despite the mildly built, turbocharged D16Z6, Kempf wagered that this Civic would one day lay down the track-only ass kicking that he knew it could. Despite fate's way, however, a spun bearing led to Kempf letting the car fall into a friend's hands who later filled the bay with a B18C1 GS-R engine and bolted Integra Type R brakes to the old hatchback. Kempf approved of the modifications ... so much so that near the close of 2007 he bought the Civic back.

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2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy

With the means and the desire to take his high-mileage chassis to its next stage, Kempf began its full revival. The following events are predictable, albeit necessary: strip the car to the shell, paint it, and replace whatever trim and hardware looks like it should be replaced. A mildly built, high-compression D16Z6 now sat where the B-series did and a host of carbon-fiber bits were thrown at the body. The buyback was all well and good until thieves helped themselves to the Civic's exterior right out of Kempf's driveway. Lucky to still have his Civic and not yet ready to abandon the project, Kempf made up his mind that the CX hatch he's already owned twice would soon serve full-time track duty.

Htup_1104_03_o+1992_honda_civic_cx+sparco+sparco_evo_2_seats Photo 7/27   |   Sparco EVO II seats hold the driver in place for 179-mph joy rides down the quarter-mile.

As you'd expect, transitioning from the driver's seat of a D-series-powered street car to that of an Outlaw class drag car (600 whp and 400 lb-ft torque to start) isn't easy. To be sure, it's a transition that more often than not lends purpose-built drag cars to the likes of Craigslist or's Marketplace. Fortunately, Kempf's transition had no such outcome. It wasn't without flaws, though. At the car's inaugural race, a late-2008 Battle of the Imports event held in nearby Seattle-a race which Kempf and crew had but one week to prepare for-the tenderfoot driver found himself "scared to death" of the car's capabilities. "I'd never driven a high-horsepower turbo car before," Kempf says. Multiple Third-to-Second misshifts and a variety of other driver errors frustrated Kempf, no doubt, but breaking the 10-second barrier despite all of that gave him the motivation he needed to move forward. Following another misshift and a tossed connecting rod at a later event, the boys at Speed-Factory determined that it was time to get serious. The car would be coming back. Better than ever.

Ten-second, front-wheel drive Outlaw class cars already lied within the chronicles of history by 2008. A 9-second Outlaw class car hailing from the Pacific Northwest, however, had yet to be. The SpeedFactory team knew that 600 whp wouldn't be enough to trap the necessary 150-plus mph so an engine revision was in order that would reportedly be good for another 150 whp. The dyno numbers proved otherwise as the B18C1 combination peaked at 905 whp and 535 lb-ft torque at 38 psi. Higher compression pistons, aluminum rods, and a 72mm Bullseye turbo are, in part, what got them there. On just 24.5-inch tires, Kempf was able to cajole that 9-second pass-a 9.92 e.t. at 152 mph at only 28 psi. Kempf and company met their goal. Quickly. The team continued campaigning the car along the West Coast, breaking the 170-mph barrier with consistently low 9-second passes.

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The crew later upgraded to larger, 26-inch slicks along with some suspension changes and a 72mm billet turbo, this time from Precision Turbo, which pushed the car to its 8.89 e.t. and later to 179 mph. Still privateers in their own right, Kempf, on behalf of the SpeedFactory team, says mid-8s are next on the to-do list. They're also, whether purposefully or not, helping alter the outcome of that condensed story of import drag racing ... for the better.

Bolts & Washers

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1.9L B18C1 engine block
Avid Racing solid engine mounts
Precision Turbo GT427R turbocharger
Precision Turbo front-mount intercooler
Custom intercooler piping
BLOX 76mm throttle body
Golden Eagle intake manifold
TiAL Q blow-off valve
SpeedFactory exhaust manifold
TiAL MV-S wastegates (x2)
Custom 4-inch downpipe
Golden Eagle sleeves
Arias 10.2:1 pistons
BME aluminum rods
B16A cylinder head
Skunk2 Pro 1+ camshafts
Ferrea valves
Ferrea valvesprings
Ferrea titanium retainers
Ferrea keepers
Precision Turbo 1,600cc/min fuel injectors
Golden Eagle fuel rail
XRP AN fittings and lines
Aeromotive fuel filter
Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator
Bosch fuel pumps (x2)
Koyo radiator
SamcoSport radiator hoses
NGK spark plugs
NGK spark plug wires
MSD Digital 6-Plus ignition
MSD HVC-2 coil
Albins dogbox transmission
SpeedFactory shift change holder assembly
T1 Race Development G Force shifter
Competition Clutch twin-disc clutch
Driveshaft Shop Pro-Level spool
Driveshaft Shop Pro-Level axles
Hondata S300 engine management

Strange double-adjustable shocks
Hypercoil springs

Brembo rotors
Integra brake conversion
Earl's steel-braided lines

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Wheels & Tires
15x10 Bogart Pro-4 (front)
15x3.5 Bogart Pro-4 (rear)
26x10 Mickey Thompson (front)
24.5x4.5 Toyo (rear)

Callos three-piece front end
Carbon-fiber wing
Spoon-style side mirrors

10-point rollcage
Sparco EVO 2 seats
G-Force harnesses
G-Force window net
Sparco Tuner steering wheel
Auto Meter gauges

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Wife and family
SpeedFactory crew
NOS Energy Drinks
Drag Cartel
Competition Clutch
Precision Turbo
Toyo Tires
Lightning Motorsports
Bullhead Gears
Bisimoto Engineering
ACME Tattoo Co.

The Formative Years
Part of what made import drag racing so exciting during its early years and, incidentally, filled the bleachers with nearly 10,000 fans per event was just how relative even the Pro class cars were to the average Hondaphile. The quickest of the quick, more often than not, retained much of their factory-issued glass, dashboards, and body parts. Engine swaps remained simple and turbochargers and electronics even simpler. Track-only parts were few, save for slicks, the occasional pair of fiberglass doors and, later on, wheelie bars. Somewhere along the line, though, import drag racing lost touch with its base. The cars increased in complexity and, more importantly, so did the dollars necessary to complete them. It wasn't surprising then when attendance waned. Today's Street class categories are breathing new life into a once-perceived dying sport. However, thanks to rules that help promote affordability and deter those with unlimited funds. The average racers have returned, as have the fans. The industry is arguably better for it.

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By Aaron Bonk
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